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Griffin P. Rodgers  

Director of the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases

Dr. Griffin Rodgers, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, is an accomplished clinician, researcher, and mentor, and is a role model for us all.

As a teenager in New Orleans in the 1960s, Dr. Rodgers witnessed two of his closest friends die as a result of SCD. This tragedy became the impetus for his interest in researching SCD — a disease that at the time had no known effective treatment or cure. In 1982, after completing medical school, he joined a team of researchers at the National Institutes of Health. Through a grant from the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program (an ASH partner), Dr. Rodgers and his team initiated a clinical trial that ultimately led to the FDA approval of hydroxyurea as the first effective treatment for SCD. In a landmark article published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1990, Dr. Rodgers and colleagues showed that hydroxyurea increased fetal hemoglobin levels in patients with SCD and also improved outcomes. Dr. Rodgers and his NIH coauthors also evaluated the effectiveness of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in curing children with severe SCD. More recently, he and fellow researchers reported on an effective hematopoietic stem cell transplantation protocol for adults with severe SCD, using a nonmyeloablative approach to conditioning that included low-dose radiation and small doses of chemotherapy.

As NIDDK director, Dr. Rodgers provides scientific leadership and manages a staff of more than 600. He also oversees a budget of $2.0 billion, which funds medical research and training, and supports the dissemination of science-based information related to diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutritional disorders, and obesity; and kidney, urologic, and hematologic diseases, including SCD. Dr. Rodgers also continues to give back to society by serving on the Harold Amos National Advisory Committee, and by mentoring young minority researchers through the NIDDK’s Office of Minority Health Research Coordination, which brings high school and college students to NIH to experience working in a laboratory.

Dr. Rodgers understands the importance of serving as a mentor, as so many have helped him along the way, including his mother, a public health nurse who modeled compassion, listening, and harnessing logic to solve problems. At Brown University, Dr. Rodgers was welcomed and taught by Drs. Pierre Galletti and Herbert Lichtman. At NIDDK, Dr. Alan Schechter was an invaluable mentor, offering advice as Dr. Rodgers wrote the fellowship grant that enabled him to work at NIH and that later helped him learn basic and translational science. And Dr. Arthur Nienhuis at the NHLBI helped Dr. Rodgers understand the process of clinical research.

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